Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic
The Tasha Tudor Book of Fairy Tales
The world today is NOT a fairy tale. But then again, maybe IT IS!! Maybe that’s why we keep reading these timeless classics in varied editions to our children. Fairy tales are a way for our young readers to puzzle out the inconsistencies they SEE in life. Wolves are not ALWAYS what they appear to be. They can dress up in grandma’s clothing or even try to blow your house down. Princesses with a pretty perfect life can prick a finger and fall into a slumber that can last 100 years. BUT it can be broken by true love’s kiss!
That’s why we keep reading these ageless stories to the young as THEY attempt to come to grips, as we did, with fears and fantasies that are part of their vivid imaginations.
The “happily ever after” is certainly THERE in these timeless tales, BUT, it is achieved in the overcoming of obstacles such as hacking away at a thorny hedge row that’s grown about the castle of the one you seek. Reference “Sleeping Beauty.”
In a changing world that is not always kind or fair, how can we inoculate children from the foul weather that inevitably comes? Answer: YOU DON’T!! But you give them tools and models to show that challenges CAN be met and overcome with some tenacity and toughness. By toughness, I do NOT mean being hardened to life. I mean grit.
Remember this scene in the musical “Oklahoma?” Laurie, the farm girl next door has just married the love of her life. A jealous rebuffed suitor named Jud attacks them both, right after a beautifully tender ceremony. Her brand new husband is now to stand trial for Jud’s death. Laurie says to the resilient Aunt Eller: “Why did this happen now when everything was so PERFECT?” Eller explains that a lot of things may come to a woman in her life; sometimes sickness, poverty and other sadness. Eller stoutly says to Laurie: “There’s only one way you can stand it. You gotta be HARDY! You just GOTTA BE!
Well, that’s what fairy tales teach, I think: how to be HARDY! They model it in their characters in how they get themselves out of witch’s ovens in “Hansel and Gretel”, trick the trickster in “Rumpelstiltskin” or stick to their inner guidance systems as ONLY the children DO in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
And in the introducing of these stories, choose wisely. Choose illustrators and storytellers that bring them richly and winningly to life. People like Tasha Tudor are the classic conveyors of what I mean. I was stunned recently when I walked into a bookstore looking for one of this foremost illustrator of folk and fairy tales books and NONE were to be found. Has CLASSIC fallen out of fashion? Hope not! Classic speaks to every generation in its illustration of what is timeless.
Tasha Tudor received two Caldecott Honor designations in 1945 for “Mother Goose” and also in 1957 for “1 is One.” She also received the Regina Medal, as did the equally famous Tomie de Paola, for her contributions to children’s literature. Illustrator of some 100 books, her last being “Corgiville Christmas” in 2003, her legacy is secure in the world of children’s picture books.
And by the way, if you have the same experience as I did, PLEASE ASK your local bookstore to ORDER a book that you may want, but NOT see. It’s a way to KEEP classic picture books CURRENT!!
Fairy tales help young readers negotiate the alternating fears of “fair and foul weather” in their OWN lives by modeling what is possible. Hey, if a cat can pass off the miller’s son as the Marquis of Carabas to a KING and become the Royal Cat, ANYTHING is possible!